Creepers, grass blocks & diamond swords : a Minecraft themed party

In our house we have some Minecraft addicts. For the uninitiated, Minecraft is a computer game which involves creating virtual ‘worlds’ and constructing buildings using various materials to create villages, towns and even cities. I’ve heard it compared to virtual Lego (I prefer real Lego personally, but perhaps I’m just old fashioned). Anyway, a certain young man in our house had a birthday recently and there was only one party theme it could possibly be – you guessed it; Minecraft.

In the weeks running up to the party, I trawled the Internet looking for ideas to make this work. To be completely honest, I don’t enjoy hosting kids’ parties. I find them really stressful and worry that the birthday boy and guests won’t enjoy themselves. My only way to cope with them is to keep the numbers involved relatively small and try to be super organised in the run up to the main event.

Normally I make up shop bought plastic party bags with sweeties and plastic ‘tat’ bought from supermarkets and discount stores. This time I decided to be different; gone were the over-priced, flimsy plastic bags, replaced with small brown paper bags left over from my last craft fair stall. Inside them were the obligatory lollipops and jelly sweets but I made themed key rings for each child using little plastic beads.


I used a combination of Hama beads and Ikea’s own range to create symbols and characters associated with Minecraft; Steve, Creepers, diamond swords and the You Tubers ‘Stampy’ and ‘iBallistic Squid’ (don’t ask – they take up residence in our lounge most weekends). I got my inspiration for these from Pinterest. If you search for Minecraft party ideas, dozens of fab pictures come up with everything from invitations to piñatas. I cannot take any artistic credit for these creations! With some mail order key ring loops and jump rings I turned the plastic characters pictured at the start of this post into school bag charms. 

I have no idea how long they will last as they are fused together with an iron and may not stand up to too much rough handling, but they did go down rather well with the party goers.

I also wanted to make something handmade for the birthday boy on the Minecraft theme as a gift from me. Fortunately as pretty much everything in the game is designed in squares, it made crochet an ideal medium to make something for his bedroom. I also, rather fortunately, had a perfectly square cushion pad sitting unloved at the back of my crafty hidey hole. And so a cushion idea was born.

I decided on a creeper for one side, but didn’t have the time or patience to exactly recreate the multi faceted face with multiple shades of green, so I opted to crochet using two yarns at the same time:

 I decided to have a TNT block as the reverse side of the cushion:

Despite choosing two very obvious Minecraft images as the front and back of the cushion and crocheting openly in front of the recipient of the gift, he never twigged about what I was making. When he asked, I just said I was ‘experimenting’ which is exactly what I was doing as I made it up as I went along! And so the double-sided cushion was made and completed in good time for the big day – I’m very pleased to say he was thrilled with it and it has pride of place on his bed now.

Then came the cake. I was starting at a disadvantage here as a very good friend of mine hosted a Minecraft party last year and she’d asked an extremely talented mutual friend to make the birthday cake for her. It was stunning – covered in different colored Minecraft squares of homemade (yes homemade) fondant icing. Sitting on top of this marvel were Minecraft characters, also made of homemade icing. It was a work of art, and tasted out of this world. So, as I said, I was starting at a disadvantage… The cake that I made was never going to match up to the one we all enjoyed last year, so I tried to manage my son’s expectations early on!

Fortunately for me our local supermarket had just had a new addition to it’s bakery aisle- ready coloured fondant icing. Trying to colour fondant icing in a warm apartment with no air conditioning is no joke – there have been some traumatic cake decorating moments in my kitchen since we moved to Gibraltar- believe me! I bought a few packs of emerald green icing so we were off to a flying start (one less thing to panic about). I decided on a simple ‘grass block’ design, but in order to make a cube shaped cake, I needed to sandwich together 4 layers of sponge, little did I know that would be my downfall…

I edged the cake in chocolate buttercream (soil) and set about making the template for my grass.

I rolled out the icing on a clean work top dusted with icing sugar. This was to be my second mistake; after cutting out my grass shape, I discovered the icing was stuck to the work top – nooooo!!!! Cue heightened blood pressure and mild panic. So I had to start again, this time rolling out onto baking parchment. 

The parchment worked a treat – thank goodness! When I transferred the icing onto the cake it wasn’t too neat on the corners so I decided to jazz it up a bit on the top to draw the eye away from the wonky corners – time to make some little squares.

At this point I had no idea how to adequately glue the little squares onto the cake so I improvised with some thickly mixed paste using icing sugar and water – it worked!

That was pretty much all I could do at home ahead of the party. I bought a couple of plastic Minecraft toys to sit on top (no icing sculptures for me!) covering the cake was tricky enough. The cake was made, the party bags filled, all we had to do now was turn up at the venue and let the guests arrive. We had opted for a sports bar set up with booths to play video games – perfect for a boy who’s obsessed with them.

Unfortunately things didn’t quite go according to plan on the journey to the party. Between our front door and the party venue, the top of the cake slid off the bottom layers TWICE!!! Can you imagine that I didn’t handle that very well after spending hours creating it the day before?! On arrival at the venue and with the aid of a couple of fish slices from the bar’s chef the cake was rebuilt. I was fine after a few deep breaths and a very strong coffee! It didn’t quite end up as I’d envisioned it and I can’t show you a photo of the side view as I didn’t take one out of shame for its appearance but here’s the final cake photo, in situ, bedecked in toys and candles.

What a day! Thank goodness they only come around once a year! 

As I tucked the birthday boy into bed, I asked him what the best bit about his birthday was. He made my day with his reply; ‘My cake Mummy, I loved it!’ The stress was worth it just to hear that.

NOTE TO SELF: Next year keep the cake to just 2 layers!

Operation Ant : this is war!

We’ve got squatters, small six legged brown and black squatters and they’re starting to get on my nerves. I have declared war on the ants who think it perfectly acceptable to crawl into our apartment uninvited and have a party. We’ve had minor skirmishes before and managed to send them packing but this time they’ve come back, and they’ve got reinforcements. 

Every time I carefully go around the place collecting up any discarded juice cups, wrappers or crumbs and think I’ve successfully thwarted their attempts to take hold, I discover they’ve found a new source of nourishment and they’re back again! It just takes one stray crumb of bread missed by the dustpan and brush, a quarter of an oven chip dropped at the dining table, half a biscuit down the back of the sofa or a half drunk tumbler of juice and the little blighters have called all their mates round for a rave. I don’t leave food out to tempt them, the kitchen bin gets emptied regularly – I just don’t know why they’ve targeted us with their shenanigans. I guess it’s a price I have to pay for living in a warm climate, but I’m not happy about it!

We’ve had a few insect related encounters during our time here in Gibraltar – by far the worst being cockroaches. In our first rental apartment, we saw them on a few odd occasions. The most revolting encounter was so traumatic that it actually cured me of morning sickness! I arrived home from the school run one morning very green and in need of a bacon butty (the only thing which would keep the symptoms at bay). As I lifted the glass lid over the stove, I found a big shiny cockroach sheltering underneath on the hot plates. All feelings of nausea evaporated to be replaced by utter disgust and anger that it had had the nerve to take up residence in my house. It must have flown in through the open kitchen window – it was soon flying back out again! My morning was then spent scrubbing and disinfecting everything.

In our next apartment, it was moths that we took issue with. Not the kind which eat holes in clothes, the kind that can chew through plastic packaging and lay their eggs in pasta, rice, biscuits, cereal, yuck, yuck, yuck. We lost well over £100 worth of food in a store cupboard infestation and had to buy loads of new plastic storage boxes to keep all our food safe from them returning!

I guess in comparison to our previous experiences, ants are pretty tame but I still don’t want them in my home! We’ve got history, me and the ants. We found them coming in through a loose tile on the balcony so I bought some time grout and Mr Postcard reattached the tile rendering their point of entry blocked. We went to bed that night feeling triumphant. What did we find the next morning? The little so-and-sos hadn’t just broken through the new grouting, they’d actually picked up the tile and moved it along so they could fit through again!!

I’ve seen them come in from under the bath, above the bathroom door and through the window frames. I’m finding it hard to seal up all their entry points. I’ve used ant killing spray cans, bait traps, ant powder and Japanese oil of peppermint (as they don’t like the smell). All of them work to some degree but it’s an ongoing battle and I’m really not happy about using nasty chemicals so use them sparingly. 

I’ve done my research though this time and there’s a whole host of non-toxic items I can try out from flour to chalk, cayenne pepper to cinnamon, lemons, talc and white vinegar. I will not be beaten, I’m on the warpath and I will win my home  back from these little menaces, just watch me! 

If you have any tried and tested methods of dealing with these little pests, please do share them. Thank you for all the kind messages I’ve received since my last post on Sunday regarding my little accident. I’m feeling much better now, my hobbling has improved and my bruises are developing a rather fetching green hue.


Counting my blessings 

This morning I had a little accident. On getting out of the car, my feet went out from underneath me and I fell like a proverbial sack of spuds. A combination of very smooth Tarmac, no grip on the soles of my sandals and rushing to avoid being late were the contributing factors. 

As I went down onto the Tarmac, I twisted my left ankle but it was my right elbow which bore the brunt of the fall – it hurt. It hurt a lot in fact. The shock of the fall rendered me unable to move and despite being in the middle of a (thankfully quiet) road I just sat there. After banging on the side of the car, my husband rushed out to help me up – he and our boys were oblivious to my plight – they just thought I was taking a while to open the child-locked rear doors!

I’m very pleased to say that I’m ok. After a lie-down, a cup of tea and some painkillers I’m aching but fine and counting my blessings. As I was being driven home, and for the first hour or so afterwards all I could think of was ‘how can I function if I end up in plaster?’ – I was convinced I’d properly hurt my arm, you see – the pain was unlike anything I’ve experienced before.

How would I be able to do the school run tomorrow if I can’t drive the car? How would I take the boys to after school activities? How would I make their packed lunches or iron their uniforms? And more selfishly; how would I paint? Crochet? Sew? Or write?

It’s a cliché I know, but I really do take so much for granted. How scary that a simple act of slipping on the floor can potentially take so much away from you – your ability to be independent and to be able to help others. So, today and tomorrow, when undoubtedly I wake up aching all over, I am and will be so thankful that I had a lucky escape – for so many, a fall doesn’t turn out so well.  

To work or not to work? That is the question.


Tomorrow, my reception aged son will spend his first full day at school. I feel more emotional about that than I did about him starting nursery or even on his first day in reception a couple of weeks ago. He is my third and final baby you see. The whole situation leaves me with a real mixture of emotions; joy at finally legitimately having a full day to myself after 11 and a half years of full-time child rearing, excitement about what the next chapter of my life will be like and sadness that the small child years are coming to an end. But I also have an internal dilemma going on; should I sit back and try to enjoy an ‘easier’ life now I have a bit more time on my hands or give in to my lack-of-paid-employment guilt and rush to fill the ‘gap’ with a job. Since my little one started back at school this month about half a dozen people have asked ‘are you going back to work now?’ A couple of well meaning friends have even suggested job openings they’ve heard about, which I might be interested in. Clearly I’m not the only one who thinks it’s time I went back to work!

The thing is, I used to be ‘somebody’ other than just someone’s wife and mother. I had a good job, a career which after 4 years at university and a fair amount of time doing unpaid work experience and poorly paid jobs within the industry, I had worked my way up to. I used to meet ‘real’ professional people and speak to them on a level, people like lawyers, scientists, politicians, high ranking officers in the emergency services. And, dare I say it, I even earned more than my husband for a while. But, and this is a BIG but, as I grew up the one job I wanted more than anything else was to be a mother. I always knew that should the time come that I had a child, as long as we could manage financially, I’d want to give up work for a considerable stretch of time. With that in mind, we bought our first (small) house with the budget of just one of our wages, so that we could still pay the mortgage on one wage if the need arose. We were careful and we found a way for me to take a rather long extended career break. Fortunately, we were always in the position that my husband had a job and that we were able to afford for me to stay at home. We never lived close enough to our respective families to have the offer of help with the boys, neither did we think the expense of paying for childcare was worth the hassle of me working just to cover the nursery fees. So I have been a stay at home Mum for 11 and a half years, since I went on maternity leave with baby number 1.

I feel truly blessed that I have been able to spend all this time with my boys. I’m so lucky that if they are ill, I’m there. If they have a special school assembly or meeting, I’m there. If they need to be taken to swimming lessons, Cubs, piano lessons, football training, toddler group, school trips, Christmas carol concert rehearsals, I’m there. My husband recently pointed out that as his career has developed and he’s increasingly traveling away for meetings (sometimes at a day’s notice) and working long hours, he couldn’t do his job if I wasn’t at home taking up the slack. 

It’s hard work though. There’s no clocking on and off time (as all parents know), I’m on call 24/7, 365 days a year (apart from a lovely child free weekend this summer). I don’t want to sound like a spoiled child myself but as the years have gone on and the demands of bringing up 3 lively boys have changed, I have found the mind numbingly repetitive routines hard to bear at times. Sometimes I feel like the ‘professional’ me is just a figment of my imagination, it was only when I found my old work pass in an old handbag that I was reminded of what a good job I had and how far removed from it I now am. About 18 months ago, a job similar to my old one was advertised locally, and after encouragement from friends and family I decided to apply for it. I got through to the second round of interviews and ‘was kept on file’ which seemed like a huge achievement at the the time, but who was I kidding? How could I hold a job down as well as the humongous one I already have? How do you work and be a Mum at the same time? Having never done it I have no idea how you can juggle both sides of your life without it all coming crashing down about your ears! In Gibraltar, kids are in full-time school for approximately half of the year. The rest of the time they are on half days, in-service days and holidays. Children get sick from time to time too. How do you reconcile that with a boss, no matter how flexible and supportive they are?

Would I be a better mother if I had time away from the home and in work? Quite possibly, yes. Could I give something back to society? Through taxes and working, undoubtedly yes. But how do you do it? The thrill of being a professional and using my brain again is so appealing if it didn’t come with the stress of being a permanently on-call parent. Perhaps I have been out of the loop for so long it feels an impossible situation to reconcile. I guess it’s a dilemma more and more women face these days though. As girls, we’re encouraged to try hard at school to get to university, then we’re told to aim high and have a career, but when the biological clock starts ticking and we want to start a family, we realise that you just can’t have it all. You either work and sacrifice the time you spend with your family or stay at home and sacrifice your career. How do you strike that balance? There’s no magic solution to the problem, each family is different, each relationship is different, each employment scenario is different. Perhaps I’m just greedy and fancy having it all, to be completely there for my boys AND have a fulfilling professional career. At this point though, I must say I have no regrets whatsoever about making the choices I did, I wanted to be a stay-at-home Mum and if I had my time again I’d make the same decisions.

So, when people ask me if I’m going back to work now my youngest is on the cusp of full time education, the answer is very firmly no, not for the time being. I already have a job, I’m a Mum, it’s just this one is done for love, not financial reward. The world of paid work will just have to wait a bit longer. Instead of rushing out to get a new job, and at the risk of sounding lazy and work-shy, I shall spend some of my newly acquired free time catching up on housework (which is long overdue), I might even meet friends for an occasional coffee and I’ll be able to spend a bit more time on my crafty hobbies. Oh, and I’ve made a promise to myself, I’m going to give up feeling guilty about not going back to working – I’m so over that!

10 things I’ve learned about Gibraltar 

Today’s a special day here in Gibraltar, it’s the 10th September which means it’s National Day 2015. It’s a day when shops, schools and offices close and the population of the Rock heads outside attired in the national colours of red & white to celebrate their national pride. There are political rallies reaffirming the people’s right to self determination, concerts, firework displays and a not insignificant amount of alcohol imbibed. 

This was the scene in Casemates Square last National Day, it was hot, incredibly busy but really good natured. As you wander along Main Street during the day you see all sorts of sights with musicians, performers and fancy dress costumes. Oh, and there are usually a few bemused tourists made conspicuous by the fact they didn’t get the red and white memo!

 So on such an auspicious day I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve learned about Gibraltar since I arrived a few years back. Here we go:

1. It’s small but perfectly formed

Considering how much the people of Gibraltar achieve on the world stage, (being represented at the United Nations on the matter of relations with Spain, having a football team in UEFA, and being home to a Miss World winner – Kaiane Aldorino in 2009 to name but three) it’s comparatively tiny. If you were to walk or run around the Rock, you would cover a distance of approximately 10 kilometres.

2. It’s a long way up

The Rock of Gibraltar is 426 metres high, which makes it taller than the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building or the Shard.

3. You can enjoy four seasons in one day (well kind of) 


Due to the geography of Gibraltar, proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Iberian peninsular and it’s height, there are several micro climates around the Rock. It can humid on Main Street, blowing a gale at the airport, be misty in South District and sunny and hot at Catalan Bay all on the same day! Oh and I may sound like I have gone soft living in these southern climes, but it really does get cold, wet and windy in winter. Homes here don’t have central heating, we rely on electrical heating, which isn’t great – our lounge fell below 10 degrees Celsius last winter a few times brrrrr!

4. There’s great religious diversity here


The largest religious community in Gibraltar is Roman Catholic, but several other Christian denominations are represented, there’s the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity for Anglicans as well as the King’s Chapel, St Andrew’s Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church, and several smaller evangelical churches. There’s also a large Jewish community with four active Synagogues here. In addition, there are two Mosques including the beautiful Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque pictured above situated at Europa Point. Tucked away behind Main Street you can find a Hindu Temple. There is also a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses a short walk from the Cruise Terminal.

5. The entire civilian population was evacuated during World War 2

Even today Gibraltar is home to Army, Navy and RAF bases, back in World War 2 it was seen as a strategic military strong hold. Tunnels were dug deep into the Rock and some servicemen were even on standby to be bricked up into secret tunnels in the event that Gibraltar was captured, in order to spy on the invading force. During the war Gibraltar residents were forcibly moved from their homeland, put into ships and sent to destinations like Casablanca, blitz bombed London, Madeira and Jamaica. For some it would be ten years before they were able to return home. This year is the 75th Anniversary of the Evacuation and on Monday this week there was an extra bank holiday, known as Evacuation Memorial Day, to commemorate it.   

6.  If you turn up at the beach without the right kit, locals know you’re an amateur  


There’s a particular type of beach culture here, no matter how early you turn up in the morning, there will be clusters of deck chairs and sun parasols there already. There are clearly spots where families regularly set up camp, and they guard their turf by marking it out early. Also, if you tip up to the beach with just a bag, a book and a towel, you will stand out a mile – you need to know what to bring. Deck chairs are a must, as is a parasol. But woe betide you if you just stick it in the sand and leave it like that. You’ll soon learn that the local winds whipping round the Rock will have your umbrella blowing halfway down the beach and spearing an unsuspecting sunbather before your bottom’s been heaved out of your folding chair! A screw in mechanism on the pointy end of the post is desirable but a couple of lengths of washing line tied to the top and anchored into the beach with sandbags or tent pegs are de rigeur. Special hooks on the stem of the parasol are common place allowing beach-goers to hang valuables and clothing out of the sand. Picnic tables, cool boxes and umbrella awnings are also useful. 

7. Gibraltarians love to chat

Where ever you are in Gibraltar you will see people chatting, in clusters on Main Street, at the tills in Morrisons, even in the middle of the road. Scooter riders will drive in pairs chatting or alongside a car chatting through an open window to the driver at speed. Traffic will stop dead in the road while one driver stops to chat to a pedestrian or someone coming the other way. It’s quite something to behold, although at times rather frustrating, when you have to wait for the conversation to finish before you can complete your journey. You can choose the shortest queue in Morrisons and still be the last one out as the person in front strikes up a conversation with the cashier. I can only assume it’s because many people have spent most of their lives here and therefore know practically everyone! One overwhelmingly positive side effect of all this chatting means that on arrival here, you’ll never be lonely. If you are at the bus stop, in the aforementioned queue in Morrisons or sitting on a bench in the Alameda Gardens, there’s a very good chance someone will come and speak to you. This openness is part of what endeared the people of Gibraltar to me, meaning you soon get to know people.

8. Gibraltar’s a hotspot for twitchers 


Due to it’s position at the very south of Europe and it’s proximity to the continent of Africa, many migrating birds pass through the skies above Gibraltar on their migration routes north and south. Kites, eagles, kestrels and vultures can be seen passing overhead, and of course there’s also the locally resident Barbary Partridges too.

9. The apes don’t just stay at the top of the Rock


Most visitors to Gibraltar make the trip to the summit of the Rock in order to encounter our hairy neighbours, the Barbary Macaques. However, at times (especially when they spot a cruise ship coming into port) they make their way down into town. They also take unsuspecting visitors by surprise by coming in through open hotel windows at the Caleta and Rock Hotels. I was once mugged by an ape who assumed the plastic bag I was carrying contained food. It was grabbed out of my hand while I waited to cross the road and ripped open. The balls of wool inside were jettisoned in disgust once they’d been spotted to be inedible.

10. Although it’s stirling, you can’t spend Gibraltar cash in the UK


The currency here is stirling, there’s no exchange rate – it’s worth exactly the same as notes and coins minted by the Bank of England. British notes and coins are readily excepted in retail outlets here in addition to the locally produced money. However, if you try to spend Gibraltar cash in the UK you won’t get very far with your transaction. You can’t even use it on a flight leaving from Gibraltar airport rendering you thirsty, hungry and unable to purchase duty free! So, if you come to visit, you need to spend it all before you leave OR keep it safe until your return. 
I hope you’ve enjoyed this round up of facts about the place I call home. Have a great Gibraltar National Day wherever you are in the world!

Rock stars & heart throbs: Gibraltar Music Festival 2015

Living in Gibraltar really has its benefits aside from the sunshine and the fantastic community here – for one weekend in the year, we can catch a free bus from the end of our road to a world class music festival. And although it does have similarities with English festivals (think portaloos and beer in plastic cups) you’re guaranteed no mud! Each year in the months running up to the festival, eager music fans are drip fed little tidbits of information about who’s signed up to perform via the local media outlets slowly bringing the simmering excitement to fever pitch in the last few weeks. This year’s festival turned out to be the best and biggest festival yet and for the first time was spread across two days.

Another new development this year was the cool festival wristbands we were all given on arrival which gave us entry on Sunday and helped us pay for our beers (using cashless transactions).

But first, let’s go back six years to our first September in Gibraltar… On National Day 2009 there was a rock concert in a pay-and-display car park next to the leisure centre. ‘So what?’ I hear you say. Well it was headlined by Status Quo. I was quite amazed that a group as big as them (admittedly they were no longer at the peak of their success) would come to Gibraltar to play a gig in a carpark. I can remember wandering the streets around Ocean Village, where we had set up camp for the day, pushing my 2 year old in a buggy to get him to sleep listening to ‘Rocking all over the world’ echoing off the apartment buildings nearby. It was a rather surreal experience! Clearly, I’m not the only one who remembers it, I spotted this chap walking up Main Street this week:

Anyway, since then the musical visitors have grown in number leading to the first ever Gibraltar Music Festival in 2012. It was headlined by Jessie J, which was seen as a real coup at the time. We decided against going with our young children so I can’t tell you much about it. The buzz afterwards however, was huge in Gibraltar and we really felt that we had missed out. In 2013, I didn’t repeat that mistake and got myself a ticket (my husband had offered to have the kids and give me a day off – hurrah!). Then the Government announced that adults could get free tickets for children if they showed their ID card and ticket. So armed with a ticket for me and a free one for my eldest, we headed to the stadium. It was amazing and really well organised (despite the lack of ladies loos). We were entertained by Level 42, Texas, Olly Murs and Emeli Sande. It was fab, we turned up to the same stadium where our kids do sports day, bumped into loads of people we knew (most of Gibraltar was there, or so it seemed) and we saw REAL music stars performing!

Last year, we took the plunge and decided to take the whole family – all five of us. Again, it was a great day out. Local restaurants set up food stalls to cater for the crowds and more big stars hit the Rock. Among those taking to the stage were Tony Hadley, John Newman, Rita Ora and The Script. We had a brilliant time, although our two youngest found the noise levels a bit much so this year, armed with two sets of ear defenders we headed back to Victoria Stadium.

GMF ’15 Day 1 

We decided to turn up mid afternoon on Saturday as it was going to be a long day and the boys would get tired. On arrival, we were greeted by this huge queue which thankfully moved quickly. While we were waiting we could hear Union J’s set and judging by the crowd’s reaction it went down well.

We took up residence near the back, armed with a picnic rug and a couple of deck chairs we waited for the next band, which was Lawson. It was their second appearance at the Gibraltar Music Festival- they’d liked it so much the first time. They got a great reception despite losing sound during their first song. After a short break, they came back on stage and filmed the video for their new single, sang a cover of the Jess Glynne hit ‘Hold my hand’ and ended with ‘Nobody does it like Juliet’ which was a big crowd pleaser.

Between sets we were witness to a lovely moment when a couple of young girls, who are huge Little Mix fans, were surprised by being invited back stage to meet their heroines. It was all done very quietly and was a really lovely thing for the organisers to do, you should have seen their faces – total disbelief! I’m sure it will be something they’ll remember forever.

Next up was Little Mix, who, I thought were really good. They had a great patter with the crowd and seemed to be having a great time themselves.

The highlight of the whole weekend for me was Saturday’s headline act; Duran Duran. The anticipation in the crowd before they came on stage was intense and as the instrumental strains of ‘A View to a Kill’ seeped out across the stadium heralding their imminent arrival the cheers began.

They were utterly brilliant, I loved every minute of their set. Starting with ‘Wild Boys’ they played a mix of their greatest hits along with a few new ones.

I don’t quite have the superlatives to convey how much I enjoyed it – they were stunning!

After the show they had this to say:

So did we Duran Duran, thank you!

GMF ’15 Day 2


There were three stages at the festival although yesterday I just stayed by the main stage after we’d set up our ‘camp’ for the day. Before settling back in the stadium we had a wander round to soak up the atmosphere.

There was a food court literally – in a basketball court! There were also craft stalls offering hair wraps and temporary tattoos among other things.

We watched a bit of local band Reach’s set on the Radio Gibraltar stage. They were really good doing covers of rock songs. It was rather bizarre to think that just a week before, we’d seen them sitting on bar stools performing outside a restaurant in Casemates Square to a small group of diners! They made a great transition from an acoustic duo to a festival rock band.

On the football pitch where I watch my son play matches was the Seaside Stage where we caught a bit of Omnibus’s set.

The pitch soon filled up as their rock anthem covers reached the ears of passers-by.

Then it was time for the family to set up camp in the stadium again just in time for Ella Henderson and James Bay, both of whom didn’t disappoint with the crowd singing along to their hits.

Next up came the Kaiser Chiefs who did a storming set, there was a great atmosphere.

As it got dark, it was time to get out the glow sticks to entertain the young ones.

Madness played a well received set on the Radio Gibraltar stage but the crowds were such that taking children there was a bit risky for losing them or getting squashed so we stayed in the main arena and listened from afar.

Sunday’s headliners were Kings of Leon. They were really good although the previous night’s entertainment meant that our boys were flagging slightly so we left shortly after they started and were serenaded on our walk to the taxi rank!

Gibraltar Music Festival is a truly great event and one which openly encourages families to attend, again offering free tickets for local children, (there was even a circus stage which we failed to visit). There were all ages represented among the crowds from young babies to grandparents. It was really well organised and just gets better and better. This hasn’t been a comprehensive review of the full weekend’s entertainment as we had three young men with us who we had to consider but what we experienced was spot on. It brings great music to Gibraltar, how many people can say Duran Duran and all the other great acts have played on their doorstep? We look ahead to GMF 2016 and watch with interest to see who comes!

Art on a Thursday evening

This evening saw the official opening of the Gibraltar Fine Arts Association’s National Celebrations Exhibition 2015, a showcase of Gibraltarian artistic talent (and there is a LOT of talent round these parts!). Organised by the Fine Arts Association and Fine Arts Gallery in Casemates Square (below), this is the second exhibition of its kind and is a great way to see many interpretations of the Rock and it’s people. It kicks off the beginning of a week of celebrations of the Gibraltarian national identity and the right to self determination ending with National Day next Thursday, 10th September. 

The competition was open to all artists from those already well established on the local art scene to others perhaps starting out on their careers. There was a good turn out on the exhibition’s opening night in the atmospheric Gustavo Bacarisas Gallery with representatives from the worlds of business, politics and of course the arts.

When opening the exhibition officially, the Minister for Culture, Steven Linares quoted a visiting artist from Almeria who had been astonished at the wealth of talent in a relatively small area. He stated that when an art gallery had been opened in Almeria, where there is a population of over one million, just 15 or 16 artists had exhibited their work there, yet in Gibraltar (with a population of just 30,000) there are over fifty good quality artists.

The theme for the contest was ‘Our Gibraltar’, the result being that the vast majority of the work showed images of the Rock and its people. There were dramatic paintings of the Rock in all it’s splendor, views of the beaches, seascapes, architectural images and views of the town centre. 

The exhibition included work in oils, watercolour, pencil, ink and collage, there was even one picture which had been created on an iPad! The competition was won by Leslie Gaduzo with his view of Waterport Road. He can be seen here with some of the other winners, the sponsors, organisers and the Gibraltar Minister for Culture.

If you should find yourself in Casemates Square between now and 15th September I’d really recommend a visit. I’ll leave you with my personal favorite; Alameda Gardens Phone Box by Linda Alcantara.  


Back to school – the long goodbye.

I feel I may be swimming against the tide a bit here but am I the only parent happy that the school holidays are at an end? Many of my Facebook friends who are parents of school-aged children have been posting pictures and comments featuring the last few golden days of the summer holidays, lamenting the fact that they’re about to lose their children to the world of education for another academic year. Rather than sadness, my feelings are of relief that I made it through relatively unscathed!

Earlier today, whilst locking myself in the bathroom to get a few minutes peace (it didn’t work by the way) I had a chuckle to myself; my Twitter feed, rather ironically, featured several blog posts about ‘ME’ time. Coming at the end of a long, fantastically busy, although, I have to say, very good summer break – ‘ME’ time is a bit thin on the ground in our house at the moment (I’m writing this after dark when I really should be in bed myself!). And living where we do means that the return to school isn’t quite as straightforward as you might imagine. It’s not just a case of taking them all to school and dropping them off at the gates until you return mid afternoon to collect them.

Here in Gibraltar, we have an eight-week-long summer break from school. Today is the day when many (not all) children in Gibraltar returned to school. So, this morning the alarm went off at 7am for the first time in eight weeks and we set off for the first school run of the new academic year. In preparation, new school haircuts were done yesterday, the last of the sew-in name tapes were attached to uniforms last night and this morning new shoes squeaked along the road to school.

‘You lucky girl!’ you might think, ‘time for a cup of tea and to put your feet up’, but alas no. This is Gibraltar and although I do love it so, there are a few quirks about life here which if I was in charge I’d like to tweak. One thing being school intakes in September. Today was the start of the school year here, and yes I did do the school run, but for just one out of my three children and just for half a day. Tomorrow a second child goes to school and finally on Friday, all three. For some poor parents the whole sorry saga of starting school won’t begin until the middle of next week!

So that’s my first gripe, staggered start dates. Now please bear in mind that this is a completely one-sided view here. I know there must be reasons for this occurrence which help the teaching staff but for parents, especially those who work and require help with childcare, this must make things very difficult. How do those who have no support network cope?

The second thing I’d like to change is summer hours, as I’ve mentioned previously in this post, during the hottest weeks of the summer and autumn terms, school finishes any time between 11:45am and 12:45pm depending on the age of your child. In other words, that eight-week-long summer break is book-ended by a few weeks of half days. I totally understand that it gets too hot in the classrooms for children to concentrate as the schools aren’t equipped with air conditioning. I also understand that many government employees work summer hours and it wouldn’t be fair to deprive the teachers of this perk if almost everyone else in the public sector (apart from the emergency services and Health Authority workers) benefited from it. After all, if I’d spent all year looking after other people’s children and had no break between Christmas and Easter or between Easter and summer (as is the situation here) I’d want something in return! BUT it really is a pain in the neck for parents, no sooner are you back from the school morning run than it seems you are heading back out again to pick them up. I don’t have the solution, I just know that the current situation, although a long standing one, makes things tricky.

So, there you have it, a staggered start to the beginning of term and then they only go for half a day, but then there’s the issue of next week. Next week in Gibraltar we have two bank holidays, one on Monday and another on Thursday. Both are for important reasons; Monday’s is a one-off event to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Evacuation of Gibraltar when the civilian population was forced out of their homes and shipped overseas during World War 2. Thursday’s is to celebrate Gibraltar National Day and the nation’s right to self determination. Both are hugely important occasions to mark, and I whole-heartedly support them, I’m not in anyway criticizing their existence. It’s just that it does mean yet another disrupted school week… school on Tuesday, Wednesday and then Friday. Should the autumn term start date be moved back until after National Day perhaps?

As a result of the aforementioned situation school full days (ie 9am – 3:15pm or later) will not begin until Monday 14th September. So, on that day, ladies and gentlemen, after several false starts, you may catch sight of me cartwheeling down Main Street enjoying my ‘ME’ time and perhaps feeling a little bit guilty about wishing away the late summer days with my three wonderful, energetic, challenging and exhausting boys!

PS I do know just how blessed and privileged I am to have my boys (and I love them to bits) but crikey it’s been a long summer and I’m just about ready for another holiday!

Sister Sledge, treasure hunts & a praying mantis: August Bank Holiday fun

Wow, wow, wow! I had a fantastic night on Saturday entertained on the Sunborn yacht hotel by the amazing Sister Sledge. I was well and truly star struck (my first ever single was Frankie back in 1985). They were great and put on a fantastic show.  

They sang loads of their old hits, except Frankie (what a disappointment) but apart from that it was a great night. Everyone was up dancing and there was a real party atmosphere. It was a fun musical prelude ahead of the great Gibraltar Music Festival which happens next weekend. For such a small community, we really are lucky with the amount of entertainment we get to experience here. 

Sunday, by comparison, was a rather quieter affair in the Postcard household, it was a dull humid day again which didn’t inspire us to venture far from home until evening. There was a bit of pottering on the patio in the afternoon, tidying up and cutting back some of the summer growth in the garden. While attending to an Oleander bush, my husband spotted this little fellow:

The praying mantis caused much excitement for the boys, especially our young bug enthusiast. Field notes were taken and research done.


Many of our patio plants are past their best now unfortunately but this sunflower, which has multiple flowers and buds up its stem just keeps going! I do love sunflowers, they are so cheery.
After dinner we decided to pay the Gibraltar Fair one last visit. It ran for nine days and Sunday was its last night. Could we entice one of our boys to have a go on one of the rides this time? (See this post for more on our previous trip to Gibraltar Fair)

The answer is ‘Yes we could!’ The youngest of the family not only had a trip round on a carousel, he also had a great time on a bouncy castle. Perhaps we are a family of doers rather than watchers after all? Watch this space!

I reckon the weather here in Gibraltar got the memo that it was a British bank holiday here too, because it was yet another grey and gloomy day on Bank Holiday Monday. I had rather hoped we could fit in a final trip to the beach before school starts next week but I wasn’t inspired by the clouds. What could we do to tire out three boys who need to start going to bed early again ahead of the fast approaching start of term? A treasure hunt! A friend of mine had mentioned geocaching to me once a while ago and I’d downloaded the app to my phone but didn’t do anything with it, until today. 

If you haven’t heard of geocaching before I’ll explain; (if you have heard of it, apologies for this bit!) the aim of the exercise is to try and find a cache. A cache can be just a piece of paper in a box or other container which is well hidden from view in sometimes quite obvious places. You use the app to find them, it tells you which direction to walk in and roughly how far you are from your destination using GPS and offers clues for where to look. When you find the cache, to mark your discovery you update the app to say you’ve found it and sign and date the piece of paper before hiding it back in it’s original hiding place. These caches are hidden all over the world by folks who presumably enjoy purting their puzzle and problem solving skills to the test.

There are quite a few of these caches dotted around Gibraltar so I decided to try the area around the Botanic Gardens as there are three nearby and if we failed in our mission, at least we could have a trip to the small zoo there.  

The gardens really are lovely, although the grey sky and murkiness in this photo don’t  show it off to it’s best advantage! We ambled through the gardens and paid a visit to the Alameda Wildlife Park or ‘zoo’ as we like to call it. It’s tucked away in a small corner of the gardens and offers a home to a small and eclectic collection of animals, many of which have been rescued from smugglers.

The pot-bellied pigs are big favourites for us, as are the tortoises.

Of course there a few of Gibraltar’s most famous residents, the Barbary Macaques.

Check out this little guinea pig – it’s got such a lot of hair! (Or perhaps that should be fur)

Back down through the gardens we headed over this gorgeous bridge over the sunken garden.


The garden is beautiful and a real green oasis in a rather built up environment- I do enjoy spending time here.

We were, of course, on a mission to find treasure or at the very least a bit of paper in a plastic box so we set off on our first mission. It was unsuccessful. Hunting around looking for something I had never seen before in grotty holes reminded me of the frustration I’m faced with daily as a mother of young boys who constantly lose toys (or bits of toys). I was not really enjoying this geocaching lark, so we gave up and went to the nearby shop and ate ice cream.

Reinvigorated and energized after a sugary treat we decided to push on and try to find a different cache. This was a short walk away and hidden in a wall. There are a lot of walls in Gibraltar and this particular one is over 100 metres long. After much rooting about in undergrowth and worried looks from passers-by I sat on a bench for a sip of water feeling defeated. That wasn’t the case for the rest of the team and the cache was discovered. There was much high-giving and congratulations. Feeling rather pleased with ourselves  we carried on and found a second one a short walk further along the road. 

I have to admit I’m intrigued by this geocaching business and would like to have another go soon. It’s interesting to see the names of the other people who have found them before you and signed the logs and also see where they have come from.  Have you had any experience of it? If so I’d love to hear from you. I haven’t included any pictures of the caches or where we found them as you may want to have a go at finding them yourself one day. That’s all for now, happy September to you all!